Electroplating 101 - How to Set Up For Plating

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Electroplating is the process of coating a metal object with another metal by using electrolysis. Think of it like getting your car painted; it will leave the object you plate looking brand new. All of these steps are going to be the same no matter what color you're plating with. After you finish reading this post, be sure to check out our post on the color that you will be plating with in our electroplating library.

Here's a list of things you will need to get your electroplating job done:

  • Ultrasonic cleaner and soap
  • Electro-cleaner soap
  • Acid activator
  • Electroplating solution (choice of color)
  • Digital rectifier with 4 wire leads OR 2 rectifiers with 2 wire leads each
  • Hotplate stirrer with magnetic pellet
  • 4 plastic beakers - 1 liter (for distilled water rinses)
  • 3 glass beakers - 1 liter (for electro-cleaner, activation salt, and plating solution)
  • 1 stainless steel anode 1" x 6" (for electro-cleaner)
  • Anode for plating solution
    • For alkaline gold use 1" x 6" stainless steel anode
    • For rhodium, palladium, platinum, ruthenium, and acid gold use a 2" x 3" platinized titanium anode.
  • Small hair dryer or soft tissue without lotion (to dry item after plating)
  • Copper plating wire - 4 oz spool (to hold items)
  • Glass mixing rod(s)
Plating Station

Electro-cleaner solution

Okay! Now that we've got all of our plating materials ready lets get to the fun stuff. First, lets set up the electro-cleaner solution. Pour 950ml of distilled water into one of your plastic beakers and preheat the water to 125°F. Then, put 40g of electro-cleaner soap into the beaker and mix with a glass rod until dissolved. Wipe the rod clean. Bend your stainless steel anode about 1 inch down so that it hangs over the edge of the beaker like a candy cane into the solution. Connect the positive lead from your rectifier to the anode and set it to 5 volts for one minute. Pour another liter of distilled water and keep it nearby as a rinse beaker.


Acid activator solution

Next, we're going to get the acid activator solution ready to go. Pour 950ml of distilled water into a plastic beaker and put 30g of acid activator salt into the beaker. Mix until dissolved and wipe rod clean. Then pour another liter of distilled water into a plastic beaker and keep it on the side as a rinse beaker.

Bath plating solution

For this step you're going to want to take a look at one of these electroplating blog posts because every solution requires different rectifier settings and plating times. When you're considering what solution to plate in, it is important to know that the thickness of the solution will make the ring more durable. For example, the 5N-4G rose gold is thicker than the 5N rose gold, which will make it more durable.

  • Rose Gold (5N)
  • Rose Gold (5N-4G)
  • 14 Karat Gold (1N-14Kt)
  • 18 Karat Gold (3N-18Kt)
  • 24 Karat Gold (24Kt)
  • High Thickness Gold (K-22-5G)
  • White Rhodium
  • Black Rhodium
  • Blue Rhodium
  • Black Ruthenium
  • Platinum
  • Palladium

Finally we're going to set up the precious metal bath for electroplating. Pour your plating solution into a 1 liter glass beaker and drop the magnetic pellet for stirring inside. Install the correct anode for your solution (if you need to use a straight bend anode it's the same one from the electro-cleaner setup).
Connect the positive lead of the rectifier to the anode. Now we're going to set up the rectifier's plating time and voltage. These settings will vary based on what solution you're using and your desired results. They should be listed on the plating solution bottle. Once the rectifier's set turn on the hot plate stirrer. Heat the solution to the recommended temperature and turn on the magnetic stirrer to a medium-slow setting. Let it mix for about 15-20 minutes and you're all set!

More of a visual person? Check out our video on this process!

If you have any questions comment below!

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